Oct 2012

Blog, South America

DISCUSSION 11 Comments


Home Alone

“To Los Frailes Beach???”

While downshifting a gear to a cruising pace, every three-wheeled rickshaw driver asked me the same question. While taking a tour of the coast in a spectacular dual toned rickshaw piqued my interest, what was more appealing was watching them go by. The plethora and odd arrangement of decals was mind boggling; dripping flames, cartoon characters, sports logos, marijuana leaves, Jesus heads, and batman-shaped windows, tinted in black plastic to hide the backseat passengers. A slight squint in the eyes and shake of the head was understood as a no thanks. It never hurts to ask I suppose.

No, today I couldn’t be distracted by water and beaches. I had my fun the day before, peering into the strange obsessive sex lives and ritualistic ways of blue footed boobies. These birds were more obsessed with mating than a class of high school boys. Where there was a female, a male was standing obnoxiously in front of her, flaunting his beautiful blue feet by raising one foot and then the other. The female didn’t seem to pay any attention; however she was beyond shallow, eventually choosing the male whose feet were the richest in azure hue. There were many duos between males involving lifting their sharp pointed bills toward the sky and blowing out a high pitched whistle, while outstretching their wings, frantically attempting to display their dominance.

I never saw a female pick a winner, but I did see many soon-to-be mothers incubating their eggs. This was interesting as well, as instead of laying her eggs in a nest, she would defecate in such extreme quantities, that essentially a nest was created of guano. This protected her eggs from bugs and made her nest visible from above.

Off in the ocean waters, you could see blue footed boobies dive bombing straight into the ocean, funneling through the water and devouring off-guard fish. As intense as they were, their lives were short lived. Dive bombing into the ocean blue slowly destroyed their eyesight, leading to an eventual heart-stopping suicide involving a cliff wall or tree.

Today was an unusual day. In the wee hours of the morning, Brad rolled out of bed without me, and ventured off to catch the early bus to Guayaquil in search of a brake master cylinder. For the second time since our trip started, Brad and I were separating for more than the length of an average 9 to 5 work day. This used to be the norm five days a week, now one day apart seemed like infinity. I was left to fend for myself on the beaches of Puerto Lopez.

Nervously, I set out to the market with a simple task for the day, a photographic challenge if you will. The challenge was given to me by a friend; take photos of cooks preparing their food. Easy enough, if you remove from the equation the part where I am shy and horrendous at the Spanish language.

Like many markets, it was a few blocks from the restaurantes turisticos, tour agencies and typical souvenir shops selling woven baskets, sarongs, and keychains. This one was a fabulous open air market, with a few messy but organized comedores. Under a tarped area, dozens of plastic tables and chairs were sprawled out, no clear distinction between one joint to the next except for what kind of salsa sat as the centerpiece. No chalkboards or menus identified the meal of the day; you just had to sit down and wait for the news. It didn’t really matter anyway, they were all nearly identical. Women were surrounded by pots and pans, pushing out food in courses: a brothy soup, then a typical plate of meat, rice, lentils, and plantain chips or patacones, and lastly a cup of juice.

Around the corner, under corrugated metal roofs, If you are wondering why metal roofs, more on this right here. Chamomile flowers were in bundles and women sat on buckets shelling peas, surrounded in a pyramid of colors.

One young shop worker, blinged out in t-shirt imprinted with a faux diamond necklace, flexed his biceps at me as I bought a bundle of spinach reminiscent of a pile of wilted weeds. While flashing a grin, he reported, “Spinach is very good for you. I eat it every day because it makes me VERY strong”. Yes, he looked just like the Latin American version of Popeye.

One of the things I love most about Latin Americans is their incredible creativity. If you can’t afford a fence, make a wall of tumbleweeds and branches to keep the sheep in. If you don’t have a car, chop a rusted out 40-year old bike in half and replace the front with a huge cart and two wheels. No need for handlebars, just grab the front of your cart and start the thigh burning motion of moving the mass forward. These utilitarian bikes (and motorcycles if you had the cash) were second in popularity to the rickshaws. They were loved and used for every perceivable task: delivering propane tanks, glass bottles, moving garbage, carrying people, and selling food. Each one was customized a bit in layout, but the food stands were generally half tabletop and half grill, sometimes with a fancy striped patio umbrella; for ambiance I would imagine.


As evening approached, I left the market with a bag full of food: chorizo, coconut balls, mashed balls of cooked plantain, fry bread filled with cheese, and a few pinches more of confidence than when I started the day. Task accomplished.

The following day, with my honey back at my side, we cruised on out of Ecuador and into Peru. As we wound through the mountains, I spotted a pig dressed as superman. He surely would have tripped on his plaid, baby blue cape if he was skipping along to a mud puddle. However he sat propped up on the table with his eyes closed next to a black charred wok, filled with delightfully juicy chunks of pork.

“I’ll have some pig please”.

The woman lifted the cape of the pig and sliced off a chunk of its back, scooped a few chunks of pork from the wok, and layered the plate with corn, pork, and onion. It was heaven, I promise.

As we continued down the road, I fed Brad like a baby, placing chunks of meat into his open mouth as he drove. As we continued on, my mind drifted to how at home you’d never find the food so exposed. Our meat is cut behind swinging closed doors, packaged in rectangular foam plates, wrapped in saran wrap and marked with an expiration date.  On more than one occasion in Latin-America I’ve watched a family take the life of one of its livestock. To them, it was an occasion and a moment to celebrate their fortune, no foam rectangles or saran wrap in sight.

As we crossed into Peru, things got hectic fast. Nacho was like the white sheep being funneled down the killing chute, engulfed in a mass of pedestrians, rickshaws, carts, and stands.

The following day we were heat exhausted and starving, driving through the vast desert and nothingness of Northern Peru.

We spotted a comedor in the distance. As we sat down on the wooden bench, a single slab of jerky-like meat wavered in the air, hanging from a bare rusted wire strung up between two beams. Carne seca: it’s what’s for lunch.

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  1. Ernie Wieber

    Good Blog Sheena, great way to start my day. Love Ya, miss you, Dad

    Comment by Ernie Wieber on October 19, 2012 at 5:45 am

  2. I loved the blog today! My wife and I just got back from Guatemala on Sunday and you are right… Latin Americans are some of the most resourceful, hardworking pepole I have ever met.

    Keep it up, you guys rock!


    Comment by adam on October 19, 2012 at 7:38 am

  3. Mom

    Sheena, you paint such pictures with your words–you almost don’t need the photographs that accompany them! When I read this blog, I felt as though I were right along side you on your adventure into the town in search of food and the people preparing the meals. I even could taste the pork cut from the back of “superpig”! These phenomenal blogs help me to enjoy the journey as though I am there with you both. I miss you, so I am enjoying the journey you have invited me to share with you through your words. Love you both!

    Comment by Mom on October 19, 2012 at 9:11 am

  4. Barb Wieber (Sheena's Mom)

    Yes your words of describing your adventure is so delightful and so inviting. Your Amazing you two of where you are. The photos you both have taken on your journey is such a dream of the unknown places where Nacho is taking you both. I can tell by your writing the peace and solitude is endless…….Geo and Chelly say Hi!!! They are doing fantastic. Can you believe that Chelly and Forest are actually hanging out together. I think Chelly wants to play with Nicks cat Katie. So far I think its working. Almost ten months it will be. Love you both!!!! X0X0X0 Can’t wait to see you on Skype. Mom

    Comment by Barb Wieber (Sheena's Mom) on October 19, 2012 at 10:47 am


    Comment by Kenneth on October 19, 2012 at 11:59 am

  6. Cat

    Great post, Sheena! Love the pic of you at the end. Hugz.

    Comment by Cat on October 19, 2012 at 12:17 pm

  7. Jay

    Today’s post was great! My mouth is watering and my mind is on the road. Le vaya bien :)

    Comment by Jay on October 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm

  8. ernesto

    q rico el chorizo asado ummmm, por donde andan y para donde van ahora

    Comment by ernesto on October 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm

  9. Osvaldo

    The birds are very funny they seems wear a new blue shoes


    I guess his favorite song is “the blue suede shoes ”

    …you can do anything but don’t step on my blue suede shoes …

    I like this song. H
    owever i like all your post dear friends .

    Comment by Osvaldo on October 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm

  10. Guys-we have enjoyed all your adventures since you left. We also have travelled MX with our trusty VW Eurovan. Heading back down in January. Your photos are amazing. You should check out the GoWesty website. You may already be familiar with them. They do run a calendar contest each year. This year we made it to the top 100 photos with our shot of our van in the Catavina Boulder Fields on the Baja but our resolution wasn’t high enough or we would have had a good chance of going further. SO many of your photos are worthy of calendar entry. Check out their requirements. I think you have a way better camera than us and I expect we could see you in the 2014 calendar for sure!!

    Keep up the great writings! (By the way, I have always told my husband that the blue footed boobies are my favourite bird and that I wanted to come back as one in my next life, so I was super excited to see them on the blog!!! I mean, really, why wouldn’t one want to have blue freakin’ feet??!!)

    Doug and Nancy

    Comment by Nancy Beglaw on October 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm

  11. @Nancy: Thanks for the kind words! Guess what, we actually did make it into the GoWesty 2012 calendar! However since we had left on our trip already, we never got to enjoy it on our wall. Nacho was alongside Lake Mary in Flagstaff, Arizona. We had just enjoyed an evening of burritos, beer, and paddleboarding in the water. :) Good memories.

    @Adam: I hope you enjoyed your trip in Guatemala. What were the highlights for you? I am learning everyday on how inventive/creative people can be. In the region we are right now, people turn oil barrels on their side, cut them in half, add hinges and a handle, put legs on them, and use them as their “garbage cans”. It is way cool and much prettier than a huge green trash can on the side of the road.

    Comment by Sheena on October 25, 2012 at 6:11 am

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